Sew On The Go Has Returned!

John Dennis

After a six-month hiatus, Sew on the Go has returned to Guelph retirement homes. Church of the Apostles parishioner Beryl Holtam runs this outreach sewing program, and has finally been allowed access once again, with new protocols in place to ensure the safety of all participants. 

On seeing Beryl’s return, one resident commented, “you help me keep wearing my favourite silly old things!”

In March 2020, all outside programming stopped at retirement homes in Ontario due to COVID-19. In the early days of the lock-down, Beryl rushed to finish repairs and get them back to residents by passing them through staff or via an outside meeting. One of the last items returned was a Scottish kilt. Beryl replaced the leather belt pieces and took the time to hunt down a leather-sourcing shop in downtown Hamilton. The owner of the kilt said “it was good-as-new and ready for special occasions.” 

Beryl Holtam stands with David Wilson at Guelph Lake Commons as he models his newly repaired kilt. Photo: the Reverend Alan Cook

Sew on the Go started in June, 2019 as an outreach program of the Guelph Tool Library. Beryl was a volunteer sewer with the Tool Library’s Repair Cafés, and recognized the need for a mobile service offering clothing repairs to residents in retirement homes. She created the program and had built up a monthly rotation of free onsite sewing repairs at eight different retirement homes in Guelph for residents, volunteers, and staff.

Repair Cafe Coordinator Saba Saneinejad said “we recognized that seniors were a target group that the Repair Café Guelph was not reaching. There are numerous barriers for seniors living in retirement homes to complete sewing repairs. These include not having sewing equipment to do their own repairs or having the financial resources to pay for this service.”

Beryl reports that she is kept very busy with repairs during a typical three-hour visit, but when time runs out, she often takes additional repairs home with her. Common repairs include pant hems, buttons, ripped seams, necklines that needed raising, tops shortened, linings removed, and moth holes darned. From September, 2019 to February, 2020 she made 28 site visits with a total of 167 residents served, 211 items repaired and an average of 7.5 repair requests per visit. 

Beryl says, “Sew on the Go is not about measuring the value of the time it takes to complete a repair. Many services and items can have a price set to them, but the gratitude for the repair of a loved item is priceless.” 

The return of Sew on the Go has been supported by a partnership with the Church of the Apostles to receive funding through the United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin and the Guelph Community Foundation Local COVID-19 Emergency Community Fund. This funding allows the program to return with confidence that the service can continue for much of the upcoming year. 

Reverend Naomi Miller said “”we were pleased to be able to partner with the Guelph Tool Library for the Sew on the Go project. In Matthew 25, we have a clear biblical mandate to clothe those who are naked, and to do this in a way that creates a connection- even a safely distanced connection- with people in long term care homes is a creative and beautiful example of love in action.”

John Dennis is the Coordinator of the Living Better on Less Program at the Church of the Apostles, Guelph.